GULLANE, Scotland – Garry Harvey may have the most famous hands in golf.
Anyone who’s watched the closing moments of the British Open has seen them, the calluses on the right index finger and thumb telltale signs that he’s played his share of golf. But there’s another reason. Like his father before him, Harvey is the man who engraves the name of the winner on the base of the claret jug.
Asking the 58-year-old, soft-spoken Scotsman to pick a favorite out of the field elicits little more than a wry smile.
“Preferably a short name,” he said, “with a four-shot lead.”
The Open granted one of those wishes last year, when Ernie Els lifted the slim silver trophy aloft on the 18th green at Royal Lytham. The only drawback is that Harvey couldn’t put pencil to metal – he traces the name before etching so much as a line – until Adam Scott’s 7-foot par putt on the last hole slid past the cup just moments earlier.
“You usually only have 5 to 10 minutes max to do the deal and cram it all in,” he said.
That’s working at a pace of roughly 15 seconds per letter, always with at least one TV camera looking on and occasionally, with Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson peering over his shoulder.
“The size of the name can be a problem,” he said. “I remember father having a bit of trouble – not trouble, he never had any trouble – but it was a push to get Severiano Ballesteros done. That’s a lot to go on there.”
Harvey wears a jeweler’s eyepiece and works with five different edged gravers – wood-handled tools that resemble small screwdrivers – including one that belongs to his father. The skills required have changed little through the centuries and not at all since the Harveys, who did a variety of jobs for the R&A down the years, were asked to begin engraving the claret jug on-site in 1968.
The impetus came when 1967 Open champion Roberto diVicenzo returned the trophy that year without having his name engraved. Previously, that was the responsibility of the winner. The first name Alex was charged with over his 33 years at the Open was an easy one, Gary Player – though it’s so much larger than all the rest that he must have felt some pressure at the moment.
“It’s huge,” Harvey chuckled. “But yes, you do feel a bit of pressure, especially when Peter is standing behind you.
“There used to be one cameraman, nowadays seems to be two. But if you concentrate,” he added, “you’re fine. What I did find one time, we had a monitor beside me and I could hear (BBC announcer) Peter Alliss commentating (on the engraving), and that caught my attention. I said, ‘Well, we’re not going to have that in there anymore.’ ”